75. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State 0

3966. Embtel 3965.1 Prior to making démarche reported reference telegram Foreign Minister discussed for nearly an hour current political situation in Indonesia and thinking of leaders within government, particularly himself and Djuanda, and leaders of PNI. Basic theme of this presentation was realization that growth of communism within Indonesia must be halted by democratic means or otherwise and that this was point on which all responsible elements in official and political area agreed.

Foreign Minister opened discussion by saying that he recognized that US had great confidence in Dr. Hatta and that we considered Hatta’s participation in a reorganized government as signal that government would be anti-Communist in orientation and one with which we could actively cooperate. He inquired as to whether this was not generally accurate. I replied by saying that it was of course true that Americans had confidence in Dr. Hatta, that we considered him an able administrator and that there was general feeling America that he represented policies which were in interest of Indonesia. Foreign Minister pressed this further by inquiring whether Dr. Hatta’s known anti-Communist attitude was perhaps not major element in this reaction. I replied that this was correct.

He then launched into exposition of efforts to get President Sukarno and Dr. Hatta to work together. He said quite frankly that in [Page 128] very real sense both Sukarno and Hatta constituted difficult problem for Indonesians because of great difficulty in past as well as present of getting them to work together. Sukarno was imaginative, creative, magnetic, with capacity to appeal to the masses but with no patience with details of administration or implementation of general policy. One could not discuss economic or financial questions with Sukarno, for example. Sukarno was always the political leader, flexible, adjustable within the overall framework of his emotional rationalism. Hatta was rigid, inflexible, competent administrator, impatient with political conceptions, hard working and interested in doing something instead of talking or dreaming. He implied desirability of getting these two men to work together in view of their complementary characteristics was only equalled by difficulty of bringing this about. He hoped, however, that it would be possible to get Hatta back into government and Sukarno and Hatta would have another talk after Sumatran business was finished.

However, he said, US would be making great mistake if our policy was based on assumption that Hatta was key to anti-Communist attitude in Indonesia. He said Dr. Djuanda, himself, Nasution and, a bit late perhaps, PNI leadership here equally anti-Communist. Present government recognized that coming year was most critical in Indonesia’s history and that during this year growth of communism in Indonesia must be halted. Last thing that Indonesians wanted was for their country to go Communist. He himself had serious question whether PKI increase could be stopped by democratic means. He agreed with US analysis to this extent—if PKI won even so much as 30 or 35 percent of votes at next election which he thought was probable unless something were done to counteract it, Indonesia would go Communist.

At same time PKI and Leftist elements were doing utmost to capitalize on rebel opposition and in effect turn this into Communist-anti-Communist battle. Prime Minister Djuanda had three times told Sukarno that as long as he was Prime Minister he would not permit PKI to capitalize on current conflict in such a way as to turn GOI course more to left. Indonesian Government wanted and needed to feel closer to US in this current period, he said. Elements within political parties and government who were friendly to America needed some gesture from US to enable them to counter accusation that US had deserted legitimate Government of Indonesia and was backing rebels.2 US seemed very far away, he said.

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I commented that I was very glad to hear that official and political leaders of Indonesia had become convinced that positive action had to be taken to prevent further Communist growth and to weaken influence. I raised two questions in this connection:

Did President Sukarno agree with what Foreign Minister was now saying, and
What steps were planned to be taken against PKI.

Foreign Minister replied frankly that he did not think Sukarno had as yet come around to this way of thinking, but they were working on him and after settlement current conflict army could be brought into picture more directly. He could not answer second question specifically, but result of PNI conference at Semarang winding up tomorrow would be significant. Both Masjumi and PSI had failed to curb growth of communism. Now was country’s last chance and PNI would have to adopt vigorous program. Even so, he reiterated he was not convinced that PKI could be disposed of in democratic manner. If not, army which was still strongly anti-Communist must be used. If tactics within democratic framework were to be successful silver tongue of Sukarno would be needed. PKI activity was carried on by professional, trained organizers working full time at job and moving from place to place. Non-Communist political parties were rank amateurs in spare time who could not meet competition of professionals. GOI had no proof as to how hard working, effective PKI was financed but they assume it was financed through Soviet and Communist Chinese governments. In response to my query he admitted they had to make similar assumption that PKI was therefore not responsible to Indonesian interest but to interests of outside power. History had demonstrated that if a country went Communist there was no going back. Democracy ceased functioning at point where Communist Party took over government.

This led to conclusion that if effective opposition to PKI within democratic framework was to be developed, some means must be found to influence masses now becoming more and more subservient to PKI organization. Only weapon they could see was voice of Sukarno to whom masses had always responded. If Sukarno could be won over to active campaign against communism, he thought still possible reduce influence PKI without use of force. Without Sukarno army remained only answer.

In this connection and leading into démarche reported reference telegram he pleaded for gesture of support from America—rice, granting of licenses for spare parts to Dakotas, arms to army, anything which would enable friends of America within official family to continue to exercise influence. He then turned to question of arms supply to rebels and interview was concluded with request reported reference telegram.

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Comment: This was frankest talk I have ever had from Foreign Minister. He appeared earnest—almost desperate—in his appeal for US understanding, actually becoming emotional at one or two points on subject of determination of GOI leaders fight communism within country.

At same time it must be remembered Subandrio is articulate, skillful advocate, master at creating impression he desires to make. Nevertheless, I think this represents démarche of great significance on part GOI to which we must react soonest.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 756D.00/4–3058. Secret; Niact. Transmitted in two sections.
  2. Document 74
  3. On April 30 President Eisenhower was asked during a press conference for his reaction to Djuanda’s charge that Americans were flying rebel planes. He replied that U.S. policy was “one of careful neutrality and proper deportment,” and added that every rebellion has its “soldiers of fortune.” For text of Eisenhower’s remarks, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1958, pp. 357–358.